The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s National Competition Authority, has announced the opening of an investigation into Google in relation to its data collection practices.
The investigation will consider whether Google Germany, Google Ireland, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, handle data in a way that constitutes abuse of a dominant market position. The Bundeskartellamt press release indicates that the investigation is under Section 19a of the GWB Digitalisation Act, an act which gave new powers to the German regulator to tackle competition issues arising in digital markets.
The GWB Digitalisation Act gives the German regulator powers to act against “undertakings of paramount significance for competition across markets” under section 19a, with Andread Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt stating that it will enable them to “take even faster and more effective action” against big tech companies over certain types of conduct.
Opening investigations into three tech giants within six months of section 19a entering into force indicates that the Bundeskartellamt is serious about trying to tackle competition issues in digital markets, an area where many regulators have been accused of falling short, and where in the UK a new specialist regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, is being established with new powers to address competition concerns.The EU is also seeking to introduce new rules to address “gatekeeper control” in digital markets in the proposed Digital Services Act. Just how effective these reforms will be remains to be seen, but it is clear that big tech faces significant scrutiny going forwards.
Please contact Tim Cowen if you have any questions regarding the Bundeskartellamt’s investigations, or competition law more generally.